Now, please be gentle, I am new to all of this. I openly admit to an inordinate amount of technical ignorance (I just found out Web 2.0 is not something I need to download) but unlike a lot of my peers I plan to do something about it. The beauty of it all is that I am going to get you to help me. After all, isn’t that what Social Media is all about?
Let’s start at the beginning so you know a bit better where I am coming from. I am a banker, yes a dirty word these days and tough to admit to, believe me. Banking has enabled me to see a lot of the world, working here in Australia, London, Edinburgh, New York and Zurich. I’ve worked in Customer Service, Operations,Trading and I.T. Project Management for both Retail and Investment Banks. I am not the high flying exec on the company jet or a policy maker just one of the troops (the GFC was not my fault!) but I’d like to think that I am in a good position to understand banks from the inside.
Here in Melbourne I met a friend who told me about his interest in Social Media and he asked me how I thought it applied to Banking. My initial reaction was to laugh. Why would a bank waste its time? A Bank with a Facebook page? Would it post photos from the Senior Management conference in Thailand ? He then explained to me, with more patience than I deserved, that Social Media (I’m typing SM from now on OK ?) is much more than Facebook and Twitter and invited me, no dared me, to find out about it for myself. So I did a bit of google-ing and what I found out scared the pin stripes off my suit.
First I tried the logical thing and found a definition in, ironically it turned out, Wikipedia. SM it seems, is all about people publishing content on-line, changing from being just readers of information to the creators of it as well. So it ranges from things like Facebook and Twitter to online help forums, discussion groups and of course Wikipedia.
Secondly I thought I’d take a look at the scope of SM and this is where it starts getting scary. SM is taking over the world. It is evolving like a super-virus, being changed and adapted by everyone it touches or touches it. It is practically unregulated, unplanned and effecting every part of global society and no one seems to know where it is going. It’s worse than sub prime debt!
Now I started to think about how SM could relate to banking and I thought of things such as customer complaint forums, mortgage comparison sites, investment discussions and even online banking. Of course a quick look shows that all this stuff exists and there is already much written in many good blogs, forums and research about the importance of SM to Banks, but from what I can find out ( and maybe I am looking in the wrong places, please feel free to point out my deficiencies here ) Banks don’t seem to be paying much attention to this huge change in Society. There seems to be no coordinated approach.
Why then do most banks seem to be ignoring the rapid rise of SM? Do they think it is just a fad? Do Banks think they are immune to these changes in society? After all banks have basically been unchanged for hundreds of years and are essential to modern society aren’t they? I thought so until I read about Social Banking where people with money can lend to those without at better terms than banks due to lower overheads. Now it’s getting really scary.
Obviously there are issues with trust when it comes to banking and SM. Why should I believe anything as true? Legal issues abound, can I sue someone for bad blog advice? Do I know who is offering information and why?
It seems from blogs and research I have read that the place of Banks in society is changing. They seem to be moving more from the middle of society to the periphery. Retail bank branches are closing and we are moving towards a cashless society. Online banking is getting huge and the internet is effecting every part of our lives. Will banking be permanently changed by SM? I think it already has and the bank that accepts this and more importantly embraces this will be the successful bank of the future. It’s no longer the case of customers needing a bank to survive but the banks needing the customer.
Banks will need some form of control over or predictability of SM and the only way to get this is to understand it. For this banker though the most important lesson I have learnt is that I know nothing. Didn’t someone important once say that to acknowledge ignorance is the first step to enlightenment? Luckily though this is just a blog and I don’t have to reference or check my facts…..yet.
*** b2cloud would like to welcome Matthew Abbott to the team, and look forward to his perspective of Social Media from the eyes of a banker ***